The band ignites on several occasions across this double-disc live set.
Martin Aston 2011-11-04
Releasing a Greatest Hits album doesn’t seem very Sigur Rós, so this live album will have to do. Since the Icelanders haven’t released a new album since 2008 (and the follow-up to Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust was scrapped before it was finished), Inni is also a welcome stopgap, if not the album fans wanted. Inni (‘Inside’) contains tracks from each of their albums, and comes with 75 minutes of concert footage (no frills; no audience even) from London’s Alexandra Palace in November 2008. The double-CD from the same two shows encompasses 105 minutes, enough for about five of their songs. Only kidding. There are 15 tracks in total, but Sigur Rós songs are the aural equivalent of the slow food club, each taste to be savoured and endured so that every classical, folk, ambient, rock and post-rock flavour can be absorbed. If rock’n’roll is the new food, Jónsi and company could win Masterchef every time.
But there’s something about live albums that falls short of the main event. Sigur Rós are an extraordinary live band; it’s those flavours, with backlighting and blended visuals, and Jónsi’s presence, the way he draws that violin bow across his guitar and gets lost in sound, and the way all four of them are bathed in the intensity of their performance. This is all lacking when you hear Inni in the cold light of day/dusk/night. The way the frontman stretches for those high fragile notes in Glósóli would be much better with the visual aid (it’s not on the film). And pictured or not, this version of Hoppípolla – after all its exposure on TV and film – isn’t expansive enough.
But this is still Sigur Rós, and free of the orchestral addendums of other live tours, and unshackled from the studio finesse, the band ignites on several occasions, when they grasp the epic strands of their DNA. Svefn-g-englar is already the slowest and dreamiest storming-of-the-barricades you’re ever likely to hear, but here it’s even bigger. Similarly, Ný batterí is gifted a brutal power here that you rarely hear on their albums. E-Bow – aka Untitled #6 from ( ) – is the sound of shearing glaciers and this version sears. Festival is equally hair-raising, but Popplagið – aka Untitled #8 from ( ) – is the killer blow, 15 minutes of the highest drama. And you can see every one of those four killers on the film. The one brand new track, the closing Lúppulagið, is six minutes of elegant piano ambience that comprises either an anti-climax or the calm after the storm. Watching this on film won’t make it better, however. But at least you have the choice.